Lockheed Martin Growing Its Cyber, Big Data Business
Rapid innovations in information technology and changes in the geopolitical environment — including events such as the conflict in the Gaza Strip and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — all point to the military’s need for large amounts of quickly digestible data.
The challenge for the defense industry is drawing meaningful conclusions from that information, while at the same time safeguarding that intelligence from network intrusions. For Lockheed Martin, this means beefing up capabilities such as cyber security and big data analytics, company officials said Aug. 13 during a briefing to reporters.
"Despite the tight budget environment, the program reductions that are going on across the industry, we still need to be incredibly innovative, make sure we're investing in the future, developing the [research-and-development] capabilities that really differentiate us from our competitors,” said Tim Reardon, the company’s vice president and general manager of defense and intelligence solutions.
The company makes about $1 billion in revenue off its cyber products and services, Reardon said. A spokeswoman for Lockheed declined to provide figures for the amount of research-and-development dollars spent on cyber and advanced data analytics. She said, however, that consumer demands in both areas are growing in the defense and commercial markets.
The Defense Department and intelligence agencies already manage their own networks, said Darrell Durst, vice president of cyber solutions. What Lockheed can provide to the government is its expertise. “We’re here to assist them through … our tradecraft. It’s our people, it’s our process and the emerging technologies,” he said.
Things have changed in the commercial sector, where it was once difficult to get company executives to understand the dangers posed by cyber threats, Reardon said. Now, they understand the importance of cyber security, but they don’t know what to do to keep their networks safe.
“There’s an evolution in the perception of the private sector now that it’s not always sufficient just to buy a software defense software product, put it on your network and you’re good to go,” Reardon said. “I think there’s an appreciation that that’s not sufficient for advanced persistent threat and some really advanced adversaries.”
Commercial companies need to know the weak spots in a network’s defenses where adversaries are getting in, Durst said. Lockheed offers products and consulting services that can help businesses create better-protected network architecture, Durst said.
“One of those things is actually eliminating the number of [internet service provider] connections you have into your business. That’s one way for you to be able to control the ingest of information,” he said.
Lockheed decided 10 years ago to develop in-house cyber security capabilities to safeguard its intellectual property, Durst said. Since then, threats have changed from small, disruptive hacktivist groups to very organized entities that sometimes lay dormant for months before reappearing.
Attacks on the company have slowed since Mandiant put forward a 2013 report exposing a cadre of Chinese hackers with links to the People’s Liberation Army, said Charlie Croom, vice president for cyber strategy and government relations. Although Lockheed Martin does not focus on attributing cyber crimes, it can identify recurring hacker groups based on the target and the techniques used to try to exploit a network.
The company had been tracking the group exposed in the report, Croom said. "The bad news is, of the 10 original adversaries we've seen [since 2003] … we're still seeing eight of them. So they are persistent.”
It’s likely some hackers have shifted their focus from Lockheed Martin to a more vulnerable target: one of the smaller businesses in the company’s supply chain, Durst said. “What they'll do is they'll go to the supplier that has that connection to Lockheed Martin from an IT perspective or even in a sharing of documentation through USB or through an internet connection.”
The rapidly changing threat environment has triggered a bigger focus on advanced analytics in the Defense Department, intelligence community and in the commercial sector, executives said.
In order to acquire, manage and analyze data, Lockheed relies on sophisticated algorithms as well as intelligence tradecraft — “the detective work, if you will, to make sense of that data and present it to a customer in a way that’s meaningful,” said Jason O’Connor, vice president of analysis and missions solution.
The company uses a product it developed called LM Wisdom to comb through databases and cull information from public sources, media reports and social media. Most of its algorithms rely on making a correlation of some type, such as measuring a population’s sentiment in order to predict future behavior, O’Connor said. For instance, an algorithm can measure citizens’ attitudes about their country’s leader.
One of the challenges is focusing your analytics to the right things, Reardon said. “Its hard to have your analysts covering all topics across the world for all things that might happen. So they’re typically focused on whatever the hot spot is.”
O’Connor said, “We have analysts currently working for our customers ... assessing the situation in Syria and Iraq. They're using every available source of data and applying ... algorithms to provide meaningful recommendations, hopefully anticipatory recommendations to our customers in those areas.”
He stressed that the human analyst was integral to making recommendations using data. "We're not suggesting that an algorithm is the ultimate outcome.” False positives and negatives are a given, so having an analyst in the loop is important when drawing conclusions from the data, he said. “Our focus is on making that tradecraft that much more powerful, making the data visible, making it accessible, making such data make sense."
Drawing huge amounts of information from many sources can help analysts have confidence in their predictions, he said. "Data doesn't have to be as good if the data is big.”
In an internal exercise, Lockheed analysts were able to use trends in social media to predict which Arab Spring countries would have uprisings or overthrow their leaders six weeks ahead of those events, O’Connor said.
"We have a very high confidence in our ability to predict societal level changes and events ... with the right upfront planning, the right attention to it,” he said
The company was recently contracted by a pharmaceutical firm to find a criminal organization that was counterfeiting its products. In a couple days, Lockheed was able to uncover the key players in that enterprise and identify the flow of money.